Wednesday, October 10, 2012

House of the Lord

When we first arrived in Costa Rica we met every Lord's Day with a dear family who we have been studying with for over a year.  They opened their home to anyone who would like to join.  It was the beginning here.  A few weeks turned into a couple months and we knew we needed to find a permanent place.  We needed a place that was easily accessible for everyone.  Where we were meeting was not easily accessible and would be almost impossible for a lot of people once the heavy rains started.  During this time we tossed many ideas around on where to look for a permanent place for services, what to look for?  We at first thought maybe we would look for something in Atenas (the town where we live, and the center hub for the buses in this area).  Would finding a place here in Atenas be the right thing to do?  And if we looked in the community where we had been meeting in this dear family's home, would that limit our growth?  In our search in Atenas nothing really surfaced that we felt would work for our needs.  So, we waited some more and continued to meet in this family's home.  David started looking for places in Altos de Naranjo (the community where this family lives) and again nothing surfaced.  There was one home that was available for rent but the 2 rooms were so small there was no room for growth and would not even work for the number we already had.

Where it started.
Matthew 18:20
"For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them."

We then found a community building to have services and it was free.  We soon figured out that this was not an ideal situation.  We never knew until Friday night if we could use the building or not.  We could only use it  if no one else in the community wanted or needed it for anything.  At this point, we feelt like we needed to be patient in finding something in Altos de Naranjo.  It would be a huge expense for these families to travel to Atenas every Sunday.  While they expressed that they would do so if we found something in Atenas, we knew that it would be very difficult financially.

All the kids love meeting at the community
building...because it is an indoor soccer field.
Makes for some great play time after church : )

We had talked with a man who owns lots of land in this little community and even had looked at options of leasing a small lot and building a pavilion on it.  All these searches led to dead ends.  They didn't want to sell or lease any of their land, and there were no houses, with the exception of the very small one, that were available for us to rent.  

Then we hear about this house that is for sale, in the center of this little community.  Houses and land here are expensive.  David went to look at it thinking they might consider renting it to us.  Long story short, renting was not an option due to their financial crunch they were in to get it sold and the debt paid.  After some discussing with the owner, they would accept $23,000 for the house.  You cannot even buy a lot around here for that.  We knew that if this is what God wanted, then He would provide.  And did He ever!!!  

David posted a quick info note on facebook, typed up a newsletter and emailed it.  Within 30 minutes God was showing His provision.  We received a lot of interest and within a few days some very generous people provided not some, but every penny that would be needed to purchase and close on this house.  There are so many things that cause us to think, "How do we ever waiver in our faith, when He is always faithful to us?"  It is just a building, a house, but soon, Lord-Willing it will be where we can come together with Him and worship in spirit and truth.  

This is the front of the house.  The outside grounds needs
some major clean-up, so you can see that there is 
a house there.

Lots of trash that will need to be cleaned up

And some exterminating...don't you think.  I wasn't there
but David said this spider was the size of his hand!!!!!

The front door and a carport where we could 
eventually close in for more room for future growth : )

Lots of outside clean-up.  Looks like the rain and no
upkeep have caused some piles of brush and rock
around the house.

The carport

Another outside view from the road.

The first things that will need to be done is a wall removed inside to make for a larger meeting area and some outside clean-up.  David says he thinks he could get it all done in a week.  And the woman in me says...Longer ; ).  In my experience projects always seem to take longer than projected.  

Lord-willing we will close on the house Thursday or Friday of this week and can get to work right away.  We are so overwhelmed by the rapid response of our dear fellow Christians who have given so generously so that their fellow Christians will have a place where they can come together and worship our Lord.  Thank you all so much for the prayers that are always brought to the Lord on our behalf and the work here in Costa Rica.  

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Bananas Around Here

My crazy little monkeys that drive
me WILD some days!!
But then look at those faces when
they choose to be sweet.
Yes, the KEY word is "CHOOSE"

As usual it is always crazy bananas around here.  It is loud, it is crazy (with a crazy amount of laundry), 18 meals a day, 12 snacks a day, and countless refills on drinks.  I am one tired waitress...

She is such a monkey.

Can't you see the stubborn streak 
in those eyes?

We are trucking our way through this school year slowly, but surely on schedule.  That is what counts, right??  We are on schedule and retaining information learned.  That is the true clinker.  Carson started Kindergarten this year too with Logan, to make it easier on me for future years of schooling.  I then decided a few weeks ago that was not a wise idea.  So, we stopped Kindergarten work and went to preschool work...he was bored and knew everything.  Back to Kindergarten he went.  He may not retain everything, but I believe whatever he doesn't get, he will still be farther along and will catch it next year.  He is doing so well and is reading too!!!  Long days of complete frustration when you are trying to teach little ones to read.  It is a major accomplishment to any Mama for their child to learn to read, but it is an extreme accomplishment when that Mama is the one who teaches them to read.    Logan had a rough start, as I think every boy who has to start Kindergarten does, but in the last 3 weeks has blown me away with what I thought he was not getting.  PRAISE the LORD!!  I was really seriously thinking maybe we should wait another year.  Then he started reading to me.  Olivia is doing so well in 2nd grade and is now able to read her Bible on her own with help here and there.  LOVE!!!!  It made for a very happy heart the other night while cooking dinner she was reading to her brothers and sister while I was cooking dinner.  Those moments are the ones that I try to remind myself of when I am having very frustrating days of schooling.  I remind myself that we can do this, we are doing this.  They are learning!!

I think they really do love each other...

And, yes, we have lots and lots of crazy banana days.  Days that I would like to forget and fast forward through.  I know, people remind me to cherish the moments while they are small for all too soon they are gone and grown.  I cannot lie though, there are days when I frantically tell myself I have like 16 more years of schooling them (all 4 of them) !!!!!!!!  What will I ever do?  How will I ever make it?  An ever present reminder for me everyday with everything is Philippians 4:13.  I think I can pretty much say that is my anchor verse right now, it is the one that I think about daily, a lot during the day, especially of late.

And on those days I am ever so happy to have another school day complete, lessons checked off, the schoolroom closed and the kitchen opened!!  Oh, how I love to be in the kitchen...well, most of the time, especially when it involves something sweet.

These are MYRABOINS!!
(you know all the things that make you, mama, crazy but love them all at the same time)

We are overrun with bananas here and they are super cheap.  I keep trying to come up with different ways to use them because when you buy them you get like 15 of them for $1, and you can only eat so many fresh bananas before you are sick of them.  And I don't like throwing out bananas that are perfect for making something super yummy and sweet.

A friend of mine posted a recipe for a banana chocolate chip muffin recipe the other day, and I had bananas that needed to be rid of soon or the ants were going to overtake them.  And they do, which is why the bananas are not allowed in the house.  They must stay outside on the table, so the ants can stay out there.
Anyways, I looked at the recipe and thought it very strange that it called for mayo or miracle whip.  Hers looked yummy, but I had just made pumpkin chocolate chip muffins and wanted something different.  So, I ended up changing the recipe and they were PERFECT!!!!!  I wanted something with more of a bran texture but still super moist and not hard as rock, which most bran muffins are bricks!!

Banana Oat Muffins

2 C White Flour
1 C Wheat Flour 
1 C sugar (I think next time I will decrease to 3/4 or maybe even 1/2)
1/2 C Brown Sugar
2 tsp Soda
2 tsp Salt
1 C Miracle Whip
2 eggs
2 tsp Vanilla
6 very ripe mashed bananas

Cooking would not be complete without the mess I make
and the toys helping me!

(I made these again the other day with a little bit healthier spin....I used light mayo and cut the sugar in 1/2, and they were even better than I remember).

Mix all the dry ingredients in mixing bowl and mix all wet ingredients in another bowl, then mix all together just until all ingredients are combined.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Grease 24 muffin tins.

You will then want to top these with approximately 1/2 C of premixed streusel topping  and 1/3 C of oats (not the instant ones) that have been tossed in 1 TBS of melted butter.  Once topped bake for 20-25 minutes.  Just watch them.  We are at a higher elevation and my cooking times have varied a lot since we moved here.  Maybe it is the oven, but some things cook a lot quicker and other things cook a lot slower.

Here is my streusel topping recipe that I always have made up and on hand in the freezer.  It will keep in a ziploc bag in the freezer for months.  Mine never stays in there that long though.  

1/2 C White Sugar
1/4 C Brown Sugar
1-2 tsp Cinnamon (depending on how you like it, and I omit for other kinds of muffins)
1/2 stick butter, room temperature
1 tsp water

Mix sugars and cinnamon, then cut in butter and add water.  Cut in until you have pea size crumbles.

Hope you enjoy these as much as we did.  It made me feel like it was fall the day I baked them.  It was cool outside and cloudy, just like a crisp fall day at home...well, it wasn't crisp but I wasn't sweating ; )

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Reality Check

You see pictures of poverty.  You here stories of horrible and dire circumstances.  But when it becomes part of what you see and hear on almost a daily basis it sends you for a major reality check.  It is more real than just knowing that those things are there and exist.

So now when I see tons of money being spent on goody bags for parties for the attendees that are more extravagant than what most children in the world would ever see in all of their birthdays combined, birthday parties for dogs, paying obscene amounts for one article of clothing, living day in and day out consumed by the state of decor of our home, and so many other excessive things it causes my stomach to churn.

While we buy these things, spend countless hours on meaningless projects and activities (to the point it consumes our days) there are others who are spending their waking hours wondering how in the world they are going to have food today and where work for tomorrow will come.  I often wonder if the Lord is pleased with the things that fill our day, the things that take up all of our time because we participate in excess.  Isn't that the reality of the situation?  Has North America not just become a big ole continent of excess?  Excessive eating out, excessive wasting of food, excessive multi-billion dollar Christmas industry that is focused on ME ME ME?  Not just one extra curricular thing but so busy with all the activities we cannot even get the things done that the Lord has shown us to do.  We don't have time or money for anything except everything for me.

There are things that are SO real!  They are real people with real struggles of mere survival who are working so hard to just feed their family and make it through the day.  They are not lazy.  And while they are doing everything they can to survive and physically work harder than you can imagine just to buy food, others are living in EXCESS.  The point of excess that you no longer have room in your 1800 sq ft home for all your stuff, it has invaded your garage.  You have no more room for toys because there are so many that they don't even fit in the closets.  Now a room in the house has been converted just for the toys and playing.  So much food in the house that at the end of the week you are cleaning out the fridge with the things that have gone bad because they just never gotten eaten.  Every weekend has been consumed with shopping trips and projects.

Here are some real life happenings.  I ask you to think about these people and try and truly imagine their hardships.

1)  A women with 4 children all alone because her husband was so abusive that his very own children turned
     him in.  This woman has been looking for months for work, with none to be found.  A friend of hers, who
     is also living in poverty, lets her work with her some to try and help her out.  This woman receives
     $100 a month from the government since her husband is in prison.  This barely pays for her rent and a
     bit of food.  The other day there was no food in their house and had not been in days.  The kids receive 1
     meal at school (rice and beans, I am sure).  While these children do have clothes on their back, they are
     outgrown, boys having to wear girl pants (because he has none that fit), pants unable to be buttoned
     because they are far to small.

2)  A family of 6 where the leader of that home has been unable to work for 3 months due to a medical
     issue.  And this is socialized medicine here, so unless you are dying, it takes a long time to get anything
     done.  There are 4 children in this home.  And, again, a family who at the end of the day has nothing in
     in the house to eat.  While 3 children do get 1 meal at school, there are still mom and dad and a small
     child who have had nothing that day.  When you give them the 3 granola bars from your backpack and
     there is not a trace of sugar left on the wrapper, you truly see the hunger they have been experiencing.

3)  A family of 7 struggling to survive all while trying to scrape pennies to get all their paperwork together to
     continue to stay in this country legally.  Because in a few short weeks they cannot work if these things are
     not done.  They will no longer be able to send their children to school, they will not be able to receive
     medical care (and one of the children has a very serious illness).

4)  A man living away from his family for almost 2 years so he could have money to send them.  His job is
     to guard a bank-owned home.  He lives in this home with no furniture but a table, one chair, and a bed.
     The bank will not even pay for him to have electricity.  A neighbor runs an electric cord so that he can
     run one light bulb at night.  He is only allowed to leave for a few hours once a week.  He never sees
     anyone.  This man makes $400 a month to support his family that lives in another country, that he has not
     seen in almost two years.  He does this so his family can survive.  Because where he comes from,
     if he stayed, they could not be surviving.  He loves his family and misses them and wants to go home, but
     to do that would mean no food.

Where did the basics go with just a little bit of comfort?  How did we get so far from living with a little comfort to seriously suffocating in the goose-down feather linens?  How did everything become all about me?

Think about this reality...

WHAT IF we got rid of the extreme excess?  What could we then do?  What if we left the job that consumes our life and family (you know the one that keeps us from being about the Lord's work)?  What if we didn't buy so much stuff at Christmas and birthdays that cause us to clean out the house to make room for MORE?  What if we didn't spend all our time working on all those Pinterest-Inspired projects?   Maybe if we let go of the extreme excess then we can have "less of self, and more of thee."

(the pictures in this post are random and were actually taken back in March while we were visiting)

Monday, October 1, 2012

Savory Moments

Since moving here there has been a whole new level of living frugally.  Things that were of normal occurrences before are rarities and things to be savored now.  We made our second trip to Wal-Mart since living here this past week and the kids were so excited.  They looked at toys, cookies, candies, and you name it they wanted it.  But all of those things come with a pretty hefty price down here.

Well, Daddy spontaneously decided when we were checking out that the kids could get some candy.  They were ecstatic.   They about exploded when he said they could pick their very own and didn't have to share.  Their faces were priceless.  They eagerly waited for the checkout person to hand them their very own package of candy and were wiggly worms all the way to the car.

Once in the car, there was not a word uttered for about 10 minutes.  The only sound you could hear was, "mmmmm....MMMMMM......mmmm!!!"

Olivia decided for her and Leia that they would savor
their candies even longer.  They split one bag of M&Ms
and then a few hours later split the other person's bag.

She is a chocoholic just like her Daddy!

Even he was without words while he was eating his
candy.  That just does not happen.

Yep, even he was saying, 

Finger licking good

Quiet as a mouse

Amazing what over 3 months with no candy will do : )

And me, well I could live without candy forever.  Not my forte.  But some good cheese dip and tortilla chips and I would be saying the same thing, "MMMMMM!"  And I did last night.  We made yummy delicious Mexico Chiquito style cheese dip.  We have been rationing our Velveeta that we import in with people's luggage when they come.  

It is amazing how much more you appreciate things when you don't have them for so long and they become treats and moments that are more savory and memorable.  They are just that, TREATS!  They become the unexpected instead of the EXPECTED.   Because with that there is more thankfulness.

Why does it really take so much to make people happy?  They buy so much all year long that when birthdays roll around they have to buy even bigger and better because they have to trump all the expected things from the entire year.  There really is nothing special left.    

1 Thessalonians 5:18 "In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you."